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August 22, 2013 / HandsOnCorps

Times moves fast ….by Adriana Crawford

    Image     Time has moved especially fast this year. It seemed like only a short while ago when I boarded a plane to Atlanta, GA, anxious about the Pre Service Orientation. Now, I look towards these last six weeks with a better sense of who I am. I call this year my personal Year Up.

            I hit the ground running when I began serving at Year Up New York, a nonprofit organization dedicated to closing the Opportunity Divide among young adults ages 18-24. Within weeks, I built the tutoring program and secured several strong volunteers. Twice a week, I watched as students gathered in one of the classrooms and listened intently to each tutor. These students came from various backgrounds but all had one thing in common: incredible motivation. There were instances when I had students stop me in the hallway to thank me for everything. I could hardly believe that my little tutoring program made such a difference. I must admit, there were times when I even became emotional. Twenty weeks later, these students moved on to their internships. During this time, I focused on supporting the academic team. I tried to experiment with different techniques to improve the tutoring process. I did not anticipate a shift in my personal life.

            I was also in graduate school full time while serving. I’m a workaholic by nature (I’m currently taking a summer class) so I figured I would be able to handle it with ease. WRONG. One area took up my time during the day while the other captured my evenings. It was not unusual for me to use my half hour of lunch to catch up on class readings. I would take the better part of my hour long commute to and from Year Up to read articles and start drafts of papers. While I swear by routines, my personal life took a major hit. Looking back, I suppose I had reached a plateau in my Year Up. The passion and energy that I brought with me in August had faded to a quiet resignation by February. The blistering cold did not help, either. My health began to suffer as I exercised and slept less (that whole “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” phrase is madness). The spring semester of graduate school made the previous semester look like a cakewalk as I struggled to understand economic concepts in public administration and technological advances in government. I became disconnected from the optimistic Adriana who started her service year. Instead, I was Adriana the graduate student of public administration and Adriana the AmeriCorps VISTA at Year Up. There was no in between.

            In the midst of frustration and many sleepless nights, I recommitted myself to my purpose. Call it an epiphany, revelation, “aha” moment- it was enough. I realized that in order for me to better help someone in their Year Up, I need to acknowledge that everyone needs a break or a helping hand sometimes. How could I work to help a student academically, become frustrated if he or she refused the service, and then turn around and do the same thing? In order to give help, you must learn how to be helped. I have learned that it is in those moments of vulnerability when we learn the most about ourselves. Thanks to incredibly supportive staff and students, I was able to move forward. As this year comes to a close, I have learned far more than I anticipated. I thought that I would provide a service for a year and be done with it. Instead, I learned valuable lessons the way from the very people I was there to help. Go figure…

Adriana G. Crawford

AmeriCorps VISTA

Year Up – New York

Brooklyn location

9 Dekalb Ave., Fifth Floor

Brooklyn, NY 11201

347-296-0210 ext. 3128


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